Thursday, 1 September 2011

Public Service Announcement

This is a public service announcement (unfortunately, without guitar) for anyone who has a Facebook profile.

Yesterday, I was Googling my own name (got to check what potential employers might see), when on the second page, I came across a link to "my profile" on [NSFW, and I wouldn't advise clicking on it anyway]. This is a profile I did not set up.

ThankYourWank is a 'hilarious' new 'social networking' (or 'netwanking'?) site, which enables you to
"Find out how many people wanked to you, thank those you wanked to by clicking +1 on their profile, get instant alerts for mutual wanks, create a list of your favourite wanks (may also be used as a to-"do" list), and see the most wanked to people on earth!"

How... delightful. And not at all disgusting, creepy and objectifying.

As a commenter on this Jezebel post about the website says:
"It also strikes me as a power play, in the same men ordering women to smile on the street is a power play, but instead of "I want just want you to know that you are lesser than me and I have a right to order you to behave in ways I find appealing," it's "I'm fucking you in my brain and there's nothing you can do about it." Basically yet another way to remind women no matter who they are or what they've accomplished in life, they are nothing but a set of holes for men to fuck and they should never forget it." 

Anyway, I soon found out that it's not just me. If you have a Facebook profile that's in any way public, you're probably on it too. Seems our friends at TYW have been helpfully giving anyone they could find a profile, without regards for the consequences. How thoughtful of them!

So, it says on the site that the only way to remove your profile is by logging in using your Facebook details and clicking 'delete'. Well, fuck giving them my details. Thanks to a friend, I found out that the best thing to do is to go to their Facebook app page and click 'block' on the left hand side. This should revoke all access, but Google might take a while to update.

Other than that, I'm not sure what to do. I found out that the site is 'based' in India, and the domain name provided by GoDaddy (yeah, these charming misogynists). I called GoDaddy yesterday to put in a complaint, (this website is in violation of their ToS) and received this back:
I do apologize Natalie, I was in the process of creating and sending up this issue but it appears the site is not hosted with us.  Because it is hosted with another company we would not be able to take anything down, what I would advise doing is going through and doing a who is search and find out who is hosting the site by looking up the nameservers and contact that company, they would be the ones who would be able to get this issue taken care of for you.
 So, now I'm a bit stuck. I'm not sure what to do, other than to urge as many people to revoke access to their profiles and hope this hideous site dies the death it so clearly deserves.

Tell your friends.

As an aside, I was very much amused that this was the picture on my profile:

Thanks to all who helped me find the information for this post.


  1. Thanks for sharing that, really worth knowing. Doesn't look like they got to me, but I blocked and reported them all the same. What a bunch of total cunts.

  2. Good work there!

  3. I thought I was pretty-well inured to anything the internet could throw at me, by now, but... Ugh. Just Ugh!

  4. I can see how one could be offended by discovering a website devoted to counting how many people wank over you, though I can't seem to make the connections made in the Jezebel quote:

    1) When a stranger tells you to smile more, it is because they have a genuine feeling of concern for you, and they want to see you happier. This isn't an attempt to usurp control over your body, so much as an attempt at consolidation.

    2) Men on the website are getting plenty of "wanks" along with women, implying that the website is not made to specifically target women, nor an attempt to remind women that they are merely holes to fuck.

    3) Is there something implicitly wrong with sexual fantasies or onanism? Because this website simply seems devoted to the one task of categorising wanking. That just isn't the same as objectification. Does the website need a disclaimer to point out that people are more than sexual fantasies? If so, should farmville need a disclaimer to counter the problem of users objectifying me (they only see me as a means of providing chickens and crops).

  5. @ManInAHat

    1) The last time a stranger approached me and told me to smile, he did not. Last week, a man walked up to me in the supermarket, stood blocking my path (I'm 5' 1) and stared at me, saying "Smile. No, seriously. Smile". Like it or not, that's bloody intimidating, and it feels shit. Whether or not he had benevolent intentions (and from his body language, it didn't feel like it), he should know that it was. A bit of self-awareness, please? I must make this clear: His right - whatever his intentions - to order me to smile does not outweigh my right to feel safe. If he had any real concern for my feelings, he should realise that making me feel unsafe while I'm picking up some spuds isn't going to make me Captain Cheery. Which leads to...

    2) Imagine you have spent your life being intimidated and harassed by women. Wherever you went, women thought they had the right to shout obscenities at you, try to grab at you, scream insults at you if you didn't want to listen to them trying to worm their way into your trousers. All through your life people had thought that because you weren't a member of the dominant gender that you had nothing important to say, nothing to contribute and were, in sum, just something that was kept around to fulfil the needs of the dominant gender. Then imagine that you googled your name, saw all the things that you were proud of doing - things you'd worked hard at and were valued for, instead of (as the rest of the time) being valued on what you bring to the aesthetics of a room. It sticks out, and it bloody hurts. It's like a smack in the face. As the commenter says, it reminds you that "no matter who they are or what they've accomplished in life, they are nothing but a set of holes for men to fuck". Yeah, I'm not as annoyed because I know men are on the site, but when you first see it, unexpectedly, as a woman, that's what you feel. (N.B. On another post, you have asked about lingo and stuff. Something you might come across here (or even be accused of) is mansplaining. Basically, this is when men (or any member of a dominant group in a forum discussing 'minority' issues) tell the people who have actually experienced these feelings how they should feel about them. If you haven't got first-hand experience of what it feels like to be in someone's shoes, don't tell them how to feel. It is not fair, and it completely disregards their experiences and opinions.

    3. Don't be fucking ridiculous. A world without wanking would be a sad world indeed. I think the point here is about politeness. I'm going to assume you have a younger sister. She's called Sarah, and she's 2 years younger than you. Now, Sarah has some very lovely friends, one in particular, who you fancy. She's called Mabel, and she's everything you want in a girl. If you will forgive the crudeness, you want to fuck her rotten, and you've tugged a few out over her. Now, is there any way in the world that you would see fit to wander up to Mabel next time you saw her in the street and say "Alright gorgeous? I've been meaning to tell you, every time I rub one out, I'm imagining you splayed over my face."? I should hope not - if you do, me and you are going to have to have a looooooong talk about boundaries, personal safety and making small talk at dinner parties. As for the Farmville comment, I will refer you back to point 2.

    Hope this helps.

  6. I'd just like to add another point that has nothing to do with the objectification issues except peripherally.

    You're eighteen years old, 'up for a laugh', and decide to post on the site in question.

    Move on a few years...

    You're thirty years old, and headed for an interview for your dream job. Company car, bonuses, all the perks you can think of, plus it's in a field you're actually passionate about. Blimey, but it's like being paid to indulge a hobby, plus you'll be rich, rich rich!

    Then you find out your prospective employer found your name on a post where you happily admit knocking one off over a blurry photo on her Facebook page...

    It ain't 'just' objectification. It ain't just potentially embarrassing for the person who's been 'featured' on the site without their permission.

    It's also damned stupid.

  7. 1) Fair enough, in those circumstances then yes, I could see how one could be intimidated. Usually when I have been told to "smile", it is by elderly people or cashiers or whatever, who would never present a similar threat and presumably had nothing but friendly intentions.

    "His right - whatever his intentions - to order me to smile does not outweigh my right to feel safe."

    Okay, if he was more observant he should have spotted that you felt unsafe. But how much responsibility should he be expected take over the fact that you feel uneasy about him? I'm reminded of a co-worker who, I eventually discovered, had a phobia of buttons. I had worn buttoned up shirts everyday, and could have easily been making life harder for her without ever knowing it.

    So should I have known about her fears? Or should she have just told me earlier that buttons bothered her? Likewise, did you ever tell this intimidating man "you are making me uncomfortable?" Or did you leave it to him to observe that for himself? I don't want to seem like I'm shifting the responsibility, but declaring someone isn't allowed to make you uncomfortable (and then expecting them to know immediately whenever they make you uncomfortable) is quite a big ask. Can you honestly say for certain that you have never accidently, unknowingly made someone uncomfortable? I think these things have to be taken into perspective a bit more.

  8. 2)"If you haven't got first-hand experience of what it feels like to be in someone's shoes, don't tell them how to feel. It is not fair, and it completely disregards their experiences and opinions."

    I think there are two flaws in this otherwise reasonable argument. I'm reminded of an anecdote about two Chinese philosophers who are walking by a stream. The first guy says, "it must be great to be a fish". The second goes, "How can you say that? How do you know what it is like to be a fish?" The first replies, "How can you say that? How do you know I don't know what it is like to be a fish?"

    This is the case here to an extent. Namely, it is being assumed that I cannot know what it is like to be a woman by a person who couldn't possibly know anything about what I actually know. The second philosopher was being just as presumptive as the first. Many a feminist discussion tends to bring up day to day occurrences that involve men just as much as women (people telling you to "cheer up", discovering there is a website that tallies how many times people have wanked over you). I find it a bit galling when I'm flatly told that I can't possibly have had a similar experience. For all anyone knows, I might have. Do I now have to go to lengths to satisfy everyone that I have had similar problems, before anyone can take my argument seriously?

    Which leads me on to the second problem: do we really have to be familiar with someone else's experience before we are allowed to comment on it? Just from a practicality point of view, it seems non-conducive to a debating atmosphere. Anyone could justify any behaviour with that argument, accusing any critic of "not having walked in their shoes long enough to tell them what to do". I can appreciate the obvious logic of the term; of course an uninformed outsider is likely to a poorer grasp of the situation, but that doesn't automatically disrupt their argument.

  9. 3. Yes, it certainly is an uncouth site. And in regards to the comment above, I can see how it might damage an interview (though I doubt employers would really log into a wank site whilst in the process of checking up on a candidate). But this still isn't the same as objectification. Functionally, this wank app is identical to a farmville app, in that other users are only referenced in regards to how many points they have, and their only form of interaction is how many thumbs up or farming items they give you. Should I have a concern that my life has been reduced to an imaginary farm on a game? The difference between wank and farmville is that wank is based around sex. Sex may be taboo enough to jeopardise job interviews, but the sexual element is not enough to make something automatically an objectification. Do I have to be female for this observation to count?

    PS: sorry for posting in this truncated fashion. For some reason, the site gets mad at me if I post too long a post.

  10. @maninahat2: I thoroughly object to strangers telling me to cheer up/smile/whatever. None of their fucking business. It's rude, presumptuous, unwelcome, and I don't care if it comes from a sweet old lady (whatever one might be) or a butch bloke, I tell them to butt out.

    As for comparing the wank site with farmville, you're being ridiculous. Using actual real people without permission *is* objectification. It implies that it's OK to behave in the way described in Nat's Sarah-and-Mabel example. It's openly threatening. I'm actually pretty surprised you fail to grasp that, especially since you say that you don't need to have first hand experience to empathise with someone. (Incidentally, as a man you can't empathise with women who feel threatened by men by the very definition of the word.)

  11. @maninahat2 Do you feel that people are constantly judging you on your Farmville score across all areas of your life? Have you ever worried that you have been passed over for a promotion because your boss prefers your colleague with a higher farmville score? Have you ever felt the urge to modify your body in order to make yourself better at farmville? Do you ever worry that someone may attack you in order to steal your farmville points?

    I'm not sure that farmville is the best metaphor for sexual objectification and the fact that you do does lead some credence to the idea that that lack of first hand experience makes it difficult to understand the feelings that this kind of site cause.

  12. Next time any twat tells me to "have a nice day", I'm going to lamp him/her. Don't tell me what sort of day to have.

    As for "Thank Your Wank", the concept that women/men would, in general, like to be thanked for being spooed over is ridiculous. The motive on this site is clearly to share "wank fodder". That's a despicable motive. Even porn usually uses (semi-)"willing" participants.

  13. If people's telling you to cheer up gets on your nerves, that's fine. I don't take issue with that. I take issue with the fact that it was made into a feminist issue despite it having little to do with sexism. I don't take to the idea that when someone is wishing you well, in general, they are actually displaying some kind of patriarchal dominance. This doesn't apply to the encounter in the shop, which goes beyond decency.

    "Using actual real people without permission *is* objectification."

    Actually, it is more like exploitation. But it isn't a severe form of exploitation, knowing that all people can and will have sexual fantasies, and that all sexual fantasies involve imagining stuff about other people without getting their permission first. All the wank app does is let people talk about it openly, rather than keep their sexual fantasies private.

    I don't condone the wank website, but I also don't see it as a means to reduce people to sex objects. Calling a woman a "fuck toy" in a porno, or describing co-workers by nothing but the size of their tits: that is sexual objectification. Publicly admitting that you find someone attractive and that you like to fantasise about them? Not the same thing.

    "(Incidentally, as a man you can't empathise with women who feel threatened by men by the very definition of the word.)"

    By the definition of which word? Also, how exactly do you know that a man can't empathise with a woman? To do that, you'd have to be able to emphathise with a man in the first place to know how exactly how his mind works. But if it is impossible to empathise without first hand knowledge, you can't possibly do that. In otherwords, the phrase "a man can never know how a woman feels or thinks" is self contradictory, because it assumes it is possible to know what a man feels or thinks.

  14. "Do you feel that people are constantly judging you on your Farmville score across all areas of your life?..."

    No, but I find myself doubting that many women do feel that way in regards to this wank website they may have only just found out about. I appreciate the fact women go their whole lives experiencing regular intimidation, dismissal, condescension, objectification and abuse. I will never dispute the fact that women have to put up with such a torrent of prejudice on a day to day basis. But I do dispute the notion that this stupid website is part of that torrent. It isn't.

    My farmville analogy was meant to suggest that if you consider this wank site a form of objectification, you should consider farmville an equally guilty of the same kind of objectification. The main criticism of the wank site was that it reduces women (people, actually) to points, pictures, and utility. Farmville does exactly that, so it should be equally objectionable. The only difference I can see between the two is that wank is based around sex and farmville isn't, which arbitrarily making it relevant to gender politics somehow. That guy you never talk to on facebook? He only contacts you through farmville because he wants your seeds. He doesn't care about you for anything else. Why not raise a question about that kind of "objectification"? The answer is that people don't care about it. Because sex and onanism is arbitrarily tied to feminism, when it often needn't have anything to do with the subject.

  15. Natalie, is there any way to contact you off-blog?
    I go to university in Australia and our student guild is still recovering from being taken over by conservate students in the last couple of years.

  16. I wasn't trying to make the point that the website is sole source of the objectification of women, the point I was trying to make was that it is a much more widespread problem. Where the Farmville analogy falls down is that, if you feel objectified by it then you have the option not to be part of it and once you opt out it will have no more affect on your life. I believe that the problem with the site in question is that it helps to perpetuate the objectification by treating it as acceptable.

    Also, it doesn't seem very consistent to say that it is the responsibility of the person who is uncomfortable to make their discomfort known but then, when someone says that a web site makes them uncomfortable, tell them that their discomfort is not valid.

  17. Ah, ok. Though I disagree that the site perpetuates objectification, I'll let it rest for fear of sounding like a broken record.

    In regards to discomfort, I did not tell anyone that their discomfort was invalid. It is entirely that persons privelidge to feel uncomfortable over anything, and I don't have any problem with someone feeling uncomfortable over a wank website or a person saying "smile".

    I can't dispute Grey over the fact that she clearly finds the website creepy and unpleasant. She knows her own dislikes far better than me, and it is not up to me what she likes or dislikes. But I can disagree with her classification of the site as sexist, objectifying, and patriarchal.

  18. maninahat2

    How do you feel about the fact that those being 'featured' on the site probably have not been informed about it, and almost certainly haven't given consent for their image to be publicly connected to such activities?

    Sexist or not, I'd say that treating people in such a manner is certainly objectifying them. The issue of consent is, I feel, central to this. It is the treatment of a person in such a way as to disregard any feelings they might have in the matter: treating them like an object with no feelings of its own—objectification.

  19. "How do you feel about the fact that those being 'featured' on the site probably have not been informed about it, and almost certainly haven't given consent for their image to be publicly connected to such activities?"

    I think it is disgusting. People should only get 'featured' if they choose to opt in. I wouldn't blame anyone if they felt shocked at discovering their face had been put on a website for wankers without any prior consent. I would find it very embarrassing to accidently discover that people have been proclaiming to wank over me via websites like this, which is what happened with Grey.

    In regards to your point about no consent or concern equating to a kind of objectification, I am inclined to agree. At the same time though, I don't see private sexual fantasies, made without permission, as objectification per say. I hadn't considered the consent element at all. In light of this, I am willing to ammend my position: using people without their permission or care for what they feel is, in itself, a kind of objectification or exploitation. Sexual fantasies, public or private, aren't acts of objectification unless the fantasy specifically entails sex acts which demean the individual to the role of a sex toy.

  20. Damn it, that should have been "par se". Why is there no editing button on this?

  21. There is an edit button; it's on the preview pane. :-)

    Indeed, private sexual fantasies may involve objectification, but aren't such, per se. Publicly connecting someone to sexual acts or fantasies without their knowledge or consent is objectifying them, though. It is treating them as if they have the feelings and rights of an inanimate object. In your analogy, it is using them as a sex toy; displaying them as nothing but an object to be used for sexual gratification.

  22. Yo, maninahat2, read up:

  23. Thanks, it is an excellent and illuminating article.

  24. Totally OT, but readers here may be interested in this. Those in the UK, I urge you to use one of the templates provided and write to your MP.